Citizen journalism key to eyewitness accounts of student fees protests in UK

Campaigners have announced two days of direct action to oppose the British government’s unpopular education funding cuts and plans to treble university fees to £9,000 a year writes Marc Wadsworth.

To support the magnificent struggles mounted by students The-Latest.Com, the UK’s first dedicated citizen journalism website, is planning extensive coverage of the protests at universities across the country on Wednesday and Thursday that include a mass lobby of Members of Parliament and candlelit vigil on Thursday when MPs will stage a crucial vote.

We encourage members and supporters of the website to attend the events, that include a march on parliament, and submit to us your eyewitness accounts, images and video of the protest directly to The-Latest or by email to editor@the-latest.com. This is the best way to upload content to the site. But we also have an emergency mobile hotline: 07950 241795.

It is worth noting that The-Latest was the first news media organisation to question police brutality and the killing of innocent bystander Ian Tomlinson at the G20 event of April last year. Until our scoop, big media had happily peddled police propaganda about what happened.

We urge our female members and supporters to join the National Union of Students Women’s Campaign on Wednesday and demonstrate outside the office of Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Lynne Featherstone. She is Minister for Women and Equalities in the coalition government and MP for Hornsey and Wood Green in London.  She should be persuaded to join other Lib Dem MPs and leading Conservative David Davis, a former Home Secretary, to vote against the government’s proposals on December 9.

Any increase in fees will hit women, minorities and poor people hardest and shut the door to education for thousands of them.

In advance of the crucial House of Commons vote, ministers have said universities that want to charge students up to £9,000 a year in fees will face fresh targets on widening access to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet admissions data from Oxford and Cambridge, Britain’s top two universities, has revealed a whitewash.

It confirms that only one Black Briton of Caribbean descent was accepted for undergraduate study at Oxford last year. And white students were more likely to be successful than Black applicants at every Cambridge college except St Catharine’s.

The National Union of Students (NUS), University and College Union (UCU) and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) is organising rallies, a candle lit vigil, march and mass lobby of parliament. Please attend and send your reports, images and video to The-Latest.

On the day of the vote lobbyists will join protestors on Victoria Embankment, London, for a rally from 3pm.

After it gets dark, the demonstrators will hold up 9,000 Glo-sticks in a candlelit vigil with the stunning Thames backdrop to symbolise the potential new annual fee students could face.

A news release from the NCAFC said: “We call on the police to allow our march to reach Parliament, and to refrain from the harassment and kettling tactics that they have shamefully deployed in the past few weeks. We will not stand for our civil liberties being trampled week after week by the authorities.”

It added: “We call on all students, education workers and sympathisers to join us on the streets on Thursday to show this Government that they can’t get away with their ideological assault on education and our public services.”

Since the NUS and UCU joint 50,000-strong demonstration on November 10 there there has been an unprecedented level of student activism against devastating cuts to education, the axing of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) to help poor students, the proposed trebling of tuition fees and now the proposed abolition of AimHigher.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, said: “These proposals, if they go through, will change the entire landscape of education in this country and we must continue to oppose them.  We need to expose the damage they will do to our universities, colleges and communities.

“MPs must be left in no doubt of the strength of opposition to these plans and the consequences of voting for them. We have been overwhelmed by support from people across the country against these plans and we hope they will all join us in making their voice heard this week.”

NUS president Aaron Porter, said: “The joint NUS and UCU march that brought together 50,0000 people on 10 November has provided the spur to a new wave of activism and lobbying, placing the Government’s policy on fees and student support policy under huge pressure.

“This week we must keep that pressure up as the vote approaches. MPs can be left in no doubt as to the widespread public opposition to these plans or of the consequences of steamrollering them through Parliament.”

If you take part in any of the protests on Wednesday and Thursday we hope that you keep warm, alert and safe.

Huge protests planned to oppose government attack on students:http://www.the-latest.com/huge-protests-planned-oppose-government-attack-students

*Marc Wadsworth is Editor at UK citizen journalism website The-Latest.com.

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About The Author

Deborah Hobson

Deborah Hobson is a freelance writer and Deputy Editor of The-Latest.com. She specialises in human interest, celebrity and lifestyle features. Deborah has written scoops for The-Latest, using the Freedom of Information Act to uncover official secrets the public have a right to know about. She looks after contributors and if you would like to become one contact her: contribsed@the-latest.com

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